The smell of popcorn and hot dogs, the sound of music and hundreds of people filled the streets of downtown Marietta Friday evening as the 36th annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival kicked off.
While the atmosphere was upbeat, there were some poignant moments during opening ceremonies of the festival Friday as memories of the festival's co-founder, Harry Robinson, were shared.
Robinson passed away in February at the age of 89. He was not only instrumental in the start of the festival but was also the driving force behind the event's popular fireworks show.
The Ohio River Sternwheel Festival Friday.
"This is something he truly loved," Harry Robinson's grandson, Ryan Robinson, said during the opening ceremonies.
"He was determined the festival would grow and the fireworks would be the showcase of the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival," added Cheri Seevers, director of this year's festival. "We will work very hard to continue his legacy."
Marietta resident Peggy McBride, who has been attending since the beginning, has witnessed the growth Harry Robinson hoped for.
If you go:
11:30 a.m. Introduction of Queen candidates.
Noon: Marietta High School Wall of Sound.
12:30 p.m. Jason Allwood Band.
1 p.m. Monday Calling.
2 p.m. Jason Allwood Band.
3 p.m. Justin Gutberlet.
4 p.m. Plan B.
5 p.m. The Chase.
6 p.m. Monday Calling.
7 p.m. Coronation and recognition of past queens.
7:30 p.m. The Chase.
8:30 p.m. Mike Albert and The Big "E" Band.
9:30 p.m. Harry J. Robinson Memorial Fireworks.
10 p.m. Mike Albert and The Big "E" Band.
8 a.m. Sunrise service.
9 a.m. Car show registration.
10 a.m. Alfie and Omegas.
11 a.m. Jennifer Simmons.
Noon: South of the River Band.
1 p.m. Captain James E. Sands Memorial Races.
2 p.m. South of the River Band.
2:30 p.m. Satisfaction: "The International Rollings Stones Show"
"It started out small and it's gotten a lot bigger," said McBride, 69. "It's nice that it's free for everybody."
"You see a lot of people you don't see any other time," added her husband, Ed McBride, 68.
The McBrides said their favorite part of the festival is the entertainment, of which there was plenty Friday night.
Local musicians Steve and Beverly Pottmeyer and country music star Jason Michael Carroll performed Friday evening, as well as the Bee Gees tribute show "Stayin' Alive - One Night of the Bee Gees."
Also held Friday night was the Little Mr. and Miss Sternwheel Pageant. A total of 32 girls and five boys between the ages of 5 and 8 entered the pageant. The winners were Max Coates and Lakyn Secrest.
There were also dozens of booths set up during the festival Friday in which children got their faces painted and cartoon portraits of themselves made, and there were also several inflatables to play on.
Marietta resident Renae Wentz, 36, was at the festival with her son, Lerik, 3. She said she's been going to the festival since she was a child.
"There's good entertainment and stuff for the kids and food," she said. "We used to lay out blankets on the hill (near the Ohio River levee) and be there all day listening to music and now we're bringing our kids here."
Dave and Jackie Mularcik, of Powhatan Point, Ohio, said they attended the festival for the first time last year and they were sure to mark the dates of this year's festival on their calendar.
They said they thoroughly enjoy the experience - especially the food and the sternwheelers - but they are also quite fond of Marietta as a whole.
"It's representative of what every city could be with a little effort," said Dave Mularcik.
The festival continues through Sunday, with the Harry J. Robinson Fireworks Show scheduled for 9:30 p.m. Saturday and several musicians slated to perform both days.